A Rabbi, a Pastor, and a Mensch

It has been quite a crazy week here in Israel. Since no one is running the show, each actor/minister tried to outshine the other, coming up with a series of preposterous ideas.

In the same week we had Israel Katz battling Uber, Naftali Bennet fighting history, and Miri Regev in a crusade against the entire Western Civilization. Luckily one former minister, Benny Begin, played the role of the little Dutch boy who plugged his finger in the dike to prevent a catastrophe.

Incidentally  it was also the week of the International Holocaust Memorial Day. In the past the State of Israel, through Yad Vashem, has always acknowledged the sacrifice of non-Jews, the Righteous among the Nations, and the trees in their honor are the first thing we see once we enter the museum.

It didn’t start yesterday, but recently our leaders have managed to persuade many Israelis that the whole world is against us, and this conviction has made many segments of the Israeli society become more insular, and intolerant.

But perhaps it is still possible, through modeling and education, to change people’s attitudes? and this is exactly what Menachem Daum, an Orthodox Jew and a documentary film maker, tried to do with his own two sons.

In the documentary film Hiding And Seeking (2004), Menachem Daum challenges the hatred of non-Jews within the ultra-Orthodox community. As a son of a Holocaust survivor, who immigrated to the US, he decides to take his wife and two adult sons to Poland on a journey to find the Polish family who saved their grandfather during the war.

Daum’s two sons live in Jerusalem and they have become ultra-Orthodox. He and his wife are aware of the fact that their chosen life style in the Haredi community, isolate them from the whole world.The parents would like their children not to see anti Semitism everywhere and to be more open to the world.

Thus the Daums show  their adult children part of the outside world, which is unfamiliar to them.The sons reluctantly agree to go, but it is clear that in spite of heeding the 5th commandment, they don’t trust the father’s judgment and see no value in that journey

The film consists mostly of conversations, there is nothing dramatic going on, apart from the underlying understanding that the Daum family is alive today because of those Polish people.

Gradually there is a  change, and at the end of the film the Polish family gets the certificate of the Righteous among the Nations, and one of the sons is making an emotional speech in which he shows his gratitude.

At that moment, I knew for sure that Menachem Daum was right not to give up on his adult sons. At the age of 70, he not only changed their attitudes, but he showed them the way to become better people.

Menachem Daum is an Orthodox Jew, but for him this faith means that he is first of all a Mensch. This is the “ethical legacy” which he bequeathed  his sons.

In Israel today we desperately need more Mensches like Menachem Daum. And since Wednesday was International Holocaust Memorial day, it is appropriate to, once again, tell about the courageous Pastor Andre Trocmé who, in response to the demand of  the Vichy authorities to produce a list of the Jews in town, answered: “We do not know what a Jew is, we only know men.”

We should be able to give the same answer here in Israel.

About the Author
I have a PhD in English literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and I usually write about issues concerning women, literature, culture and society. I lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994). I am widow and in March 2016 started a support/growth Facebook group for widows: "Widows Move On." In October 2017 I started a Facebook group for Older and Experienced Feminists. I am also an active member of Women Wage Peace and believe that women can succeed where men have failed.
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